Lately I’ve been noticing a trend in parenting.
We’re convinced that our children aren’t getting enough “sensory play”, so we manufacture opportunities to feel a new texture, hear a new sound or absorb a new odor–yeah, I said absorb a new odor.
You know you’ve made the essential oil play dough.
We’ve all seen the Pinterest boards. We’ve all made the busy bags, paint squishy thingy-dealys, and pop bottles full of beans. The’re fun. And they’re super handy for the plane ride, or for seriously inclement weather, or for preschool rooms where a dozen sets of fingers must be kept out of mischief. They have serious applications in occupational therapy.
While they definitely have their places, and may be very important for kiddos who struggle with various sensory disorders, it’s been slowly dawning on me that for most kids these things are almost completely unnecessary (I say almost because there will always be waiting rooms and airplane rides).
But how will you make sure your child is adequately stimulated, you ask?
Friends, I’m here to tell you, there’s something better out there.
You know, OUT THERE.
Where there is no electrical outlet for your glue gun.
If we all just let (or even force) our children outside in good weather, AND in bad weather, with and without shoes, coats, hats and toys, EVERY SINGLE DAY, I promise they will get all the sensory stimulus they need. They will even learn some stuff. They will learn how much water makes a mud which will squish sloppily through the fingers. Maple leaves smash into a delightful green slime. Water from a hose laying in the sun is HOT! Falling on the rocks can hurt. Balancing on a slippery log, or steep porch rail requires concentration. Twigs from the cherry tree are bitter.
When they are new at playing in the actual world, it may take practice and getting used to, but before long the little tykes run, jump, climb, squish, smash, sniff, and build until their little sensory banks are full.
Then they come in the house (hosing them off before you let them in is optional) and probably take a nap. Do you know what that means?
YOU can take a nap too!
You don’t have to seize the opportunity to bedazzle a rain stick for them, because they went out and heard, felt, tasted the actual rain.
Am I saying you should toss your busy bags?
NO! Like I said before, they have their place.
But let’s also not attempt to do the job of nature with any number of clever doodads.
It’s just too sad.